never mind the buzzcocks
18 October 2010
Okay. I realized I haven’t updated my blog since this site launched - I’ve been out on the road promoting my new book (The Dead) and although many hotels claim to have Wi-Fi access, it mostly doesn’t work. More stuff about being on the road in the next blog. But for now I just wanted to set the record straight about ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’. There have been stories in the press about how Jedward were terrorised on the show by Jack Dee. Apparently he was so horrible to them that they were nearly in tears. Suffice to say, unless there was another recording in which I wasn’t a guest, this is complete nonsense. Yes, the focus of the show was on the Irish twins – they are a strange and interesting couple - but in the end it is hard to dislike them. Jack Dee’s thing is obviously to be rude and grumpy, and the show takes no prisoners, but Jack is actually a bit of a teddy bear and everything was pretty good-natured. The antics of Jedward lured the guests into strange and surreal areas, and they were mocked relentlessly, but it never really turned nasty and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Jedward know what people think of them and they play up to it. It’s also easy to forget that they’re very, very young (the same age as my eldest boy) and must be forgiven some of their naïve excesses. I would say what they knew what they were getting into on the show, but it turned out that neither of them had ever watched it, or even heard of it before. You’d think that anyone interested in a music career might have watched one of the longest-running music shows on TV. But then Jedward live in their own private little world, where, it must be said, they do seem to be quite happy. I think it’s a slight shame that the production company felt that they had to exaggerate what had happened on the recording, which was actually a good laugh. I enjoyed doing it, although I knew that it wasn’t going to be about me but would revolve around Jedward.
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It must be quite daunting for some people going on to do the show but as I’ve spent most of my working life in the BBC studios I felt very much at home. As I know Jack, and Noel and Phil and Katy Brand (one of the other guests) it was a bit like having a night out with some friends, except, that is, for the strangeness that is Jedward. The other guest was Eliza Doolittle. She really is very young, as well, and I do worry about her being thrown into the not desperately pleasant world of rock music. But for now she's enjoying the ride, and was very sweet. As I expected I was fairly useless at answering the questions or guessing any of the intros - even though one of them was blindingly obvious. In the afternoon Eliza, Phil and I were locked away in a room where we tried to think up amusing things to say about some of the bands we’d been warned would crop up on the show (come on - everybody knows these shows aren’t just made up on the spot. They are made for entertainment purposes, it’s not about who wins and who loses, or how many points you get.) That being said, I knew perfectly well this process was a waste of time: because everything in the end was going to be about Jedward. Which it was.
I said I was familiar with the BBC studios – I’ve been working there since the beginning of the 90s. The sad thing is that BBC TV Centre is going to be sold off. The statue of Ariel, the iconic circular building ringed by the best television studios in the country, staffed by the best TV crews, will probably be turned into flats. The night I was there most of the other studios were full, the news was in one, Strictly Come Dancing in another, Hairy Bikers were doing a cookery show in another, Jools Holland was recording Later in another, this is what the BBC is all about. The BBC is not some airy fairy notion. It’s not the executives who run it. It is the programs that make it what it is. And the program makers. And to be in the studio when there are lots of other shows going on is always very exciting, never quite knowing who you might bump into, wandering into the other studios to watch rehearsals... Without all this, what does the BBC become? It won’t have a centre, it won't have a heart. And I think there is a danger that the executives and the people that run the BBC will lose even more contact with the programs that they make and it will become simply a publishing house. I can’t believe the BBC would even consider for a moment closing down Television Centre and selling off its studios. But it’s going to happen. One day we will all turn around and the BBC will be gone and we will ask ourselves how we let this happen?